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Female Strength Training & the Fight for Women’s Barbells in All Gyms

Modern women gym-goers are ditching the treadmill for the squat rack.  According to CBS News, women are becoming less concerned with developing a “bulky” appearance.  But perhaps this isn’t the reason at all that more women than ever are lifting weights.  I feel empowered and strong by lifting weights, and I know many women who feel the same way.  There is less of a focus on losing weight and more of a focus on becoming stronger and more fit.  

American female weightlifters are setting the tone for females everywhere who are interested in lifting.  Team USA lifter Mattie Rogers is a 22-year old sensation who has already competed on the world stage.  Just last month, she earned bronze medals in several events at the International Weightlifting Federation’s World Championships in the 69-kilogram weight class.  Team USA even called her “the greatest U.S. women’s lifter at 69 kg. in history.”  In addition to Rogers, team USA has seen recent notable performances from the following female weightlifters: Jenny Arthur, Sarah Robles, Morghan King, Camille Brown, and Erin Amos, to name a few.

Although female weightlifting is on the rise, it is still difficult to find a women’s barbell in your local gym.  A women’s barbell measures 25 millimeters in diameter, while a men’s barbell measures 28.5 millimeters.  What’s the difference?  A lifter’s ability to grip the barbell is significantly impacted by the size of the barbell they’re trying to pick up, and you guessed it–because women tend to have smaller hands than men, the 25 mm wide barbell is the more optimal size for them.  

Thus, the issue with the men’s, or “universal,” barbell is that it actually is not universal at all. Oftentimes, women who try to use these bars cannot lift as much weight as they could if they are using a barbell that they can actually wrap their hands around to effectively pick up the weight. 

A woman should not have to go to a CrossFit class or join a weightlifting club in order to be able to lift with a women’s-sized barbell.  These should be readily accessible at gyms everywhere and they should exist in equal quantities as the men’s or “standard” barbells.  Fitness is changing, and society isn’t keeping up. It’s time to end the assumption that women aren’t lifting weights, because they are, and they’re damn good at it.  Who knows, maybe if gyms provide women’s barbells, even more women will start lifting weights.  

Powerful women are setting the bar (pun intended) for generations to come when it comes to physical fitness.  Let’s keep this momentum up to encourage and remind women everywhere that the squat rack and free weights aren’t just for men.


Photo Credits: 1, 2

Shannon is the former Editor-in-Chief of Her Campus American University. She is a Psychology major and is also a senior on the varsity swim team.
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